Storing Spinach May Make it Healthier

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It’s St. Patrick’s Day and that means a lot of green. Time for a green-vegetable study on one of the greenest: spinach.

Last week a study found that fluorescent lighting in supermarkets can actually boost the nutritional value of fresh spinach. Spinach is especially high in chlorophyll, a green pigment found in almost all plants. (Chlorophyll, if  you’ll recall from high school, is what plants use in photosynthesis.)

chlorophyll; a vital and green molecule

Supermarkets typically keep fresh spinach in clear plastic containers under constant fluorescent lighting, and so the scientists simulated these conditions. After exposing fresh spinach leaves to light or darkness for three to nine days, the spinach stored in light measured significantly higher levels of vitamins C, K, E, and folate after only three days. The light-exposed spinach also had higher levels of the  carotenoid compounds lutein and zeaxanthin. By contrast, spinach leaves exposed to darkness had declining or unchanged levels of nutrients.

On the down side, continuous light exposure did lead to wilting.

The study was published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry; you can read the abstract here.

To read about how the compounds in spinach — and other healthful foods — play a role in cancer prevention, take a look at Eating Smart for Cancer Prevention.

Have a favorite green vegetable (or other healthy food)? Share.

Do Sugary Sodas Cause Pancreatic Cancer?

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A new study on cancer risk offers one more reason to avoid sugary sodas: A possible link between soft drink consumption and pancreatic cancer.

Read about this study on the AICR website: In the News: Soda Consumption Linked to Pancreatic Cancer

Sugary drinks have already been linked to obesity and body fatness is a cause of pancreatic cancer according to AICR’s expert report.

But this study looked at the effect of sodas on risk of pancreatic cancer and found that two or more sodas per week increased risk independently of BMI. The authors do acknowledge the difficulty of separating soda consumption from other health habits that increase risk of pancreatic cancer, such as cigarette smoking. And some other research has not found the pancreatic cancer and soda link, so more studies are needed.

The bottom line is that AICR’s recommendation to avoid sugary drinks for cancer prevention is already supported by convincing evidence.

And fewer sugary drinks leave room to get calories from healthier foods such as vegetables, fruit and whole grains. A healthy diet with those plant foods, along with regular physical activity and staying at a healthy weight, offers protection against a number of cancers.

The Health-Alcohol Conundrum

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There’s been a lot of stories this week about a new study linking moderate alcohol intake with lower risk of weight gain. The study makes for some grabby headlines, but alcohol intake and health is a complex issue that scientists agree needs more research. For heart health — and now, possibly to avoid weight gain — moderate drinking (2 drinks for men and 1 for women a day) may have benefits. But when it comes to certain cancers: there’s no amount of alcohol that’s healthy.

The basics of the latest study: Published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, the study included about 19,000 women age 39 or older who began the study at a healthy weight. At the start of the study, the women reported how many alcoholic beverages they typically drank per day. Over an average of 13 years follow-up, the women on average gained weight. But normal-weight women who drank a light to moderate amount of alcohol appeared to gain less weight than  the women who did not drink at all.

For people who don’t drink alcohol, this is not a reason to start, the study authors note. More research is needed to identify the many factors than can play a role in how alcohol effects certain individuals. Read more… “The Health-Alcohol Conundrum”